Mar. 17, 2021
Alice Cooper on “Detroit Stories” – Back and Better Than Ever
via Under The Radar
Over the years, the term “rock” or “rock ‘n’ roll” has changed, evolved or mutated (depending on your point of view). Now bands are allowed underneath the umbrella term that sound little-to-nothing like those early songs of Chuck Berry and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Rock, of course, requires oomph, a punch to the gut and a prophetic bit of haranguing to get its point across. That’s exactly what longtime musician and frontman, Alice Cooper, is best at. He’s the villain of rock ‘n’ roll and these days, in many ways, he’s exactly what the art form needs to shake it up. But the role is also the same he’s always played, ever since applying that first bit of eye makeup in the late ’60s to create his musical antihero. And all of this and more can be taken in while listening to Cooper’s 2021 LP, Detroit Stories, which is out now.
“I just looked at it,” Cooper says, “and asked, ‘What’s missing in rock ‘n’ roll?’ To me what was missing was a villain. We had all these Peter Pans but no Captain Hook.”
Cooper remembers falling in love with music as a young person in Detroit. On the airwaves in those days were the dreamy bands of the west coast and the punk bands of the east. But what Cooper admired most was the guttural, Sacral Chakra-thrusting Detroit rockers. It was music driven by the electric guitar and as much bravado that the instrument could offer—enough to overflow the stage or recording booth. Later, as a young adult, Cooper brought this ethic to the music he made. He created the character of Alice Cooper to bask in this energy and has been a fan of his own creation ever since. “Alice is my favorite rock star,” Cooper says. “I talk about him in the third-person all the time.”
The frontman excelled at shock rock. If he was dressed up, covered in blood, carrying a horse whip as he stepped on stage then, Cooper says, the audience would feel as if they were slammed in the middle of a story already. They would immediately be asking themselves in wonderment, “What happened?” By then, Cooper would be mid-chorus and have them in the palm of his be-gloved hands.
“We were on stage doing parts of West Side Story,” he says, “where we were actually bleeding on stage. It scared the hell out of everybody.”
Cooper’s newest record, Detroit Stories, is an accomplishment from someone already so accomplished. He was a legend when Wayne and Garth bowed down in Wayne’s World, proclaiming they weren’t worthy, but he’s only re-cemented his status with the new 15-track album. Recorded in Detroit with longtime producer, Bob Ezrin, the record both crystalized something in Cooper that he knew well and brought to life something that had only otherwise felt numinous (read: soul).
“There was a certain amount of R&B in the way [the band] played,” Cooper says. “I didn’t really notice it until I started listening back. If it were [done] in California, it would have been a different sound. But Detroit, I think that’s in the DNA.”
If one is a fan of Cooper, one should find the record appealing. But even for those who haven’t followed Cooper’s career or discography closely to date, the album imbues that sonic quality that’s made him a tried-and-true Hall of Fame rock artist. One just needs to check out the album’s newest single “Social Debris” for proof. The song jumps and rumbles like a booming engine. Cooper surfs overtop like someone so used to the turbulence. He knows how to manually control the transmission. In turn, it transmits his signature dark heft right back. But “Social Debris” is no outlier. There are 14 more stirring songs just like it on the terrific, time-traveling LP.
“I’m 72,” Cooper says. “And I’m doing more than when I was 25. The thing about music is I’ve never outgrown it.”